Sex, fraud and the law

The SE Texas Record Aug. 9, 2008, 2:34am

There's a sexual harassment lawsuit currently roiling the Texas plaintiff's lawyer community, and we're not sure what to believe.

Paralegal Angela Robinson claims she had a sexual problem with her ex-boss, Houston trial lawyer heavyweight Rick Laminack. He's the one whose face graced the cover of Fortune magazine, whose mass lawsuits over diet drugs and breast implants have earned him many millions in fees.

She says he's a "sexual predator." He says she's mad because his law firm fired her.

Difficult as it may be to cut through its alleged depravity, its allegations of "trysts," $100,000 fees to witnesses, and $15,000 ones to paralegals to travel with bosses to Las Vegas, there are some breadcrumbs worth following in Ms. Robinson's complaint.

There's more to consider than a single law firm workplace or one lawyer's personal life if any of the allegations have merit. Our justice system is the broader target.

Robinson's less salacious, but more ominous allegations that she was finally fired because she uncovered a scheme engineeered by Laminack to "defraud thousands of Fen-phen pharmaceutical litigation clients" should catch the eye of state and federal investigators.

According to the complaint, firm employees "bought" fictitious medical records for their clients. Robinson alleges she told Laminack this was dishonest and he told her to keep quiet about it.

The charge is reminiscent of the last time Laminack was prominently in the news. Three years ago this month, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack of Corpus Christi upbraided him over the medical records he presented to support thousands of silicosis lawsuits filed with a Mississippi court.

Seventy percent of his clients "diagnosed" with silicosis had already been diagnosed with--and had filed lawsuits over-- asbestosis, even though expert physicians later testified they had never encountered a single U.S. patient who had been stricken with both maladies, much less a thousand or more of them.

Laminack said his medical records were right, to the best of his knowledge, and suggested that his clients might have been involved in a deception when they filed asbestosis lawsuits years earlier with other lawyers.

Robinson is demanding relative pocket change--tens of thousands--from Laminack for her supposed troubles. Some think it's safe to predict he'll find a way for the suit to "go away."

But before this case fades, the allegations of fraud should get prosecutorial vetting. He deserves it-- so does our justice system.

More News